getting out of Dodge?

Another wonderful chat with our friend Brent yesterday; the wonders of palmistry and elemental hand shapes, considering sympathetic approaches to demons (before Brent gets dragged to the stake, that is my thing rather than his), and the language of pathology and illness.

Healing in the broad sense is an interest of mine, though I am a long way from being a health freak, a prospect I find about as inviting as the lycra clad yuppie cyclists that hurtle through London. Not only do I view health as more than  physical, and material events as more than coincident, but also disease and pathology as more than simply the “bad guy“. Which isn’t to say that you don’t just sometimes fight that stuff and get all the help you can, but there are deeper levels to so much of our lives.

The idea that pathology forms a language is I think clearest in the case of psychological disturbance; a language that is in process of unfolding, or articulating. And behind this thing which seems to push towards illness and even death, there is something else, nascent but intelligent, serpentine but subtle and saturnine, which actually seeks life and consciousness. Resolution. Seeking greater wholeness in fact. Yet being unconscious, the course charted is not necessarily one that takes into account the life and well being of the medium in the here and now.

I think such an idea is most clearly discernible in the case of psychological disturbance, which gives us a great modern metaphor, but I do believe it can be there even where it is more obscure, in physical illness, and in those instances of “life gone wrong”  that people do have the misfortune to experience. I do not here mean any sense of blame, or diminishing of the experience of illness or tragedy. I mean in the sense that a buried splinter troubles the sufferer to find and extract it, that an abscess moves to burst through the surface of the skin and be released, that pain troubles us to remove our hand from the knife or the fire.

In us there is a deeper sense of wholeness and being, greater than our bodies, emotions, minds or circumstances of life, but not unconnected with them. Behind the old fashioned mask of the malefic is a message that is also the greater cure.

I know these are not ideas that would be popular or complimentary to our culture, which requires both blame and the expunging of blame. Such ideas are open to misuse, and our knee jerk world requires a litigation free insurance policy, whether it concerns health, politics or what drugs a person enjoys. Not only that, but our culture requires an atomized, fractured and quantifiable, discrete sense of being, which is the effective antithesis of real life. No matter how much we might need to surf  life, we are taught that only control will do. We live not so much in a material world as a materialist superstition. We live in a scared world with a lot of conformist attitude.

But I think in spite of that, our instinct to seek meaning, and to make sense of our predicament, does sometimes join with deeper perceptions. We might have emptied our world of soul, or had it jailed by religion, but we’ll seek soul in our lives as surely as the repressed seek hookers and hard spirits. Even in a figurative ghost town of sickness and decline or madness. When the grope for meaning is unconscious, and follows the black dog to trouble, the language isn’t meant to stop there. The splinter is not meant to stay buried.

I wish health and fulfilment to all, and none of these hardships. But have a thought for the language that seeks to articulate itself, beyond what was and what seems to be, to a greater, more truly alive whole. Listen. Loosen. Ask what the saturnine mask conceals, what warmth and softness behind the cold hardness? What poetry behind the waster’s loss, what vigour unimagined, behind the illness and injustice?

We think heroes and heroines live in myth, but sometimes they explore hells in common disguise. Actually not sometimes. All the time, and not for nothing.

I think if we can wake up and listen, and help each other to do so, we can discover new stories, wonderful stories, and find that our descents have been trips down the mine shaft to bring back gold, and we can save a lot of people the trouble of going down the mine shaft physically. It’s a terrible world for so many people, including people you think have it ok, or privileged. Pick a hell, any hell, then  make it invisible. Is it any wonder people are ill or lost?

Dream is a great teacher and healer, and film has always seemed a bit like dream to me. We don’t get an unchanging script, but we do get a film that we star in. We get an authentic uncertainty that we can authentically do something with. The creative process works, I know that; and the unconscious is wise, I know that too.

It’s true that getting here is a pretty foul process, and no one gets out alive (at least in the sense we’re used to it), but still this is it, and you’re the artist.

Write. Pick up the camera. Dream. Heal.

Bring the ghost town to life, and move on.

Ghost Town Utah by Mike LoCascio (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ghost Town Utah by Mike LoCascio (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons. Image electronically altered for colour desaturation.


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